Some tips to making better maps

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Some tips to making better maps

Postby DjBourgeoisie on Thu Jan 26, 2006 1:10 pm

I have written a little "guide to better mapping" tutorial so heres a list of things to keep in mind when constructing your maps. You can avoid alot of problems down the road and improve the look/fun factor with some pretty simple techniques. I hope this helps some of you getting started and makes it a little easier. I have been mapping for around 6 years now and basically am self taught, but with all the tutorials for how to do this and that I dont think there is a guide like this that I have seen so I help you gain something from it. Feel free to sticky if you find it of use.

1. Think of the theme of your map entirely from start to finish. You dont necessarily need to plan the layout in advance, but rather come up with the idea itself, what cool things you can add, how they will affect performance in your map, and how to best work it in.

2. Dont be sloppy with your brushwork and say I will go back and touch it up later, make it right the first time. Often times people tend to forget things they did, especially when verticing your walls etc in maps. That can greatly cut the cost of your map performance if you dont properly make your wall connections etc. Think optimization the entire time, dont build maps in such a way you cannot use hint brushes. Remember, if that brush does not block vis or seal the map, func_detail it, and ALWAYS do this for stairs.

3. Prop placement, yes you dont build complex brushes in hammer like in hl1 anymore. When placing your props, make sure you have the model itself fitting in with the theme of the room/setting. If you plan on using some larger models in a certain area such as railings, it is always a good idea to build your brushes around the model, dev textures can help measure the correct size of your brushes. Depending on the model you have in mind it might be better to use a model. If you need to use multiple props of the same type/model like trees for example. Rotate every other model to a different angle so they dont all look all the same. In my farmhouse map I have 3 trees of the same model, but rotated each at their own angle makes them look like 3 different models.

4. Mapping large outdoor maps, you should try to avoid putting alot of details into these types of maps, but if you have a house for example, you need to construct it in such a way you can hint off the indoor rooms that you will see into from the outside. If you dont the entire house will be drawn and likely cost you massive performance hits. Env_fog_controller is your friend, a great way to hide the z clip distance.

5. Texture alignment and schemes. Make sure the textures you use fit the room, same with the props you place in them. Avoid stretching them if possible, never try to fit a single texture onto a large brush or using a floor texture on your ceiling etc *yuck*

6. Sounds, often overlooked in maps. Visualize yourself in your map walking thru it, what sounds might you hear in the real world? Got it? Now to put them in your map. Be sure the volume is tweaked for ones that arent meant to be extremely loud (drops of rain etc)

7. PLEASE use nice architeture. Dont make a hollow box, texture the walls and say theres my room. Cut up the floor, make a step up floor or down, vent shafts, protruding walls, collumns. Same goes with the ceilings, dont always be so fast to slap a brush on top and call it done. Theres alot of things you can do with a ceiling to make it look better. Skylights anyone?

8. A great brush based entity to cut down on resources in larger outdoor maps for buildings is func_lod. This of course should be used with a fog to hid the disappearing brushes as you get out of range. For those who dont know what it is, basically if say you set the lod distance to 200 and are at 300 units you wont see the brush until you are 200 units away.

9. Lighting, make sure the light color and type matches the model it is supposed to be coming from. How dumb would it look to have a blue light coming from a yellow stained bulb? Cost of light sources go as follows starting with the cheapest to most complex for the engine to render. (Light/light_spot/point_spotlight) ALWAYS turn off dynamic light enable on your spotlights, it will cause massive performance drops if you dont.

Last and probably most importantly you should learn the art of optimization, even if you spend years mapping and get really good at it but never learn how to optimize, your maps will run like poo... Here is a link to a very well written and informative guide to optimizing your maps. Read it, read it again, and read it again until you understand every word.


http://www.student.kun.nl/rvanhoorn/Optimization.htm
Creator of as_oilrig_dj, cs/de_xcom, de_courthouse_final, cs_docks_djfinal, cs_mansion

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Postby gandy on Thu Jan 26, 2006 1:16 pm

Thanks... that should come in handy :)
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Postby woogie on Thu Jan 26, 2006 1:19 pm

A very helpful guide there.
I fancy getting into trying some mapping.
I have a few ideas.
I just need to look around and see how to go about it really!


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Postby Mox -05 on Thu Jun 22, 2006 7:59 pm

man I got a great idea for a map... but it's just too much for me to make :P and Im pretty sure it would eat FPS... but with this guide...

might even do it...


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Postby Atomicfire on Wed Jul 18, 2007 7:23 pm

thanks alot m8 for the infor just start getting in to the Map editing for Steam games this past 4 months
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Re: Some tips to making better maps

Postby alias on Thu Aug 20, 2009 1:39 pm

Dont follow this guide but use displacements:





Carve messes up maps.
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Re: Some tips to making better maps

Postby Atomicfire on Thu Aug 20, 2009 1:56 pm

:?: :?: :?: :?: :?:
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Re: Some tips to making better maps

Postby alias on Thu Aug 20, 2009 3:49 pm

Its an example that shows what carve actualy does. It cuts the shape out of the square box but by doing so it creates very bad brushes. He thinks he can make clifs by using that but you shouldnt do that. If you checked his wireframe you noticed alot of useless lines which are simply edges of brushes. Not to mention the load times of a carve action. Cutting 1 cilinder out of 2000 brushes can result in 8000 brushes to be made. Hammer simply cant handle that to infinity. Even if you made it by hand it would be more stable.

Not only it couses hammer to crash (like he had) it also fails compiles when overused. Carve shouldnt be used unless you know exactly what you are doing with it and know it will give stable brushes (carving a box out of a box to make it hollow is fine - even though there is a hollow function for that, but again, watch out carve carves everything it touches even triggers, hints, and other brush based stuff you made).

Carve can make your maps completely fail forcing you to remake everything from scratch (not just the area you carved).

The same what he wanted to make can be done by using the texture tool, select the faces you want to have as a cliff and make a displacement of those (2nd tab of the window is about displacements). Then you can simply edit those brushes more accurately and much more stable and cheaper in memory. Displacements are for walls like that. They arent ugly, rarely make hammer crash (yes, hammer does crash often no matter what you do) and render much faster ingame.

Best is to make every brush by hand to ensure it works best.

The reason i posted that video is just because thats an example of misusing carve.
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Re: Some tips to making better maps

Postby Nelsaidi on Fri Oct 02, 2009 7:38 pm

alias wrote:Dont follow this guide but use displacements:

[ youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xh9Kr2iO4XI[ /youtube]

Carve messes up maps.



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Re: Some tips to making better maps

Postby Stretch on Thu Nov 19, 2009 10:20 pm

Thanks for the help, I want to start making my own, I'm no good at it atm, but hopefully I'll get better :D
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Re: Some tips to making better maps

Postby Ponury on Wed Oct 10, 2012 7:45 am

Great list of tips. Especially func_lod made me curious. I addition to your hints I can add couple things:
1. When you are making a window (or a shuttered window) - the room inside may be too dark and players will disappear in it. Its good to put func_illusionary just in front of the window to little lighten up the interiors.
2. I made my first map using only areaportals and func_details. I did not use hints. Hints only help Hammer in visability calculations (they suggest where to split the map) - you can do the same by changing all non-essential brushes to func_detail. I added areaportals in almost every building doors and windows - it improves performance a bit. I agree that every staircase must be a func_detail - as DjBourgeoisie said - but you should also consider to put a ladder instead of a stairs. It can also improve performance because you are using only one func_ladder instead of 20 detailed brushes. To see how areaportals work just unpack a map (for example dod_dunes_ukcs) and check how it was built. The map is divided into pieces which are separated by areaportals and sky brushes.
3. In prop_static and prop_dynamic there are two functions: start fade distance and end fade distance. If you set endfade at 650 - after that distance the object will disappear. Its good to use it on furniture and stuff which can be visible from short distances. I did not use start fade - I think it doesnt actually save memory.
4. I made my map square by square (or building by building) and step by step. Try to plan before you make your step. Make a break and think-visualize - then get back to work. You dont want to make too many clicks in stepping back somewhere and again forward. Also learn how to use hotkeys - it will definitely speed up your work:
SHIFT+A - texturing
SHIFT+B - adding a block/cylinder etc
SHIFT+V - changing the geometry of a block
SHIFT+E - adding a default entity
5. Sounds - in addition to what Dj said - add env_soundscapes which are triggered when visible. Name them and make (or copy) the txt file which is responsible for it. It adds more climate to the game.
6. Make sure that all textures are aligned with world or a face because it may cause problems when compiling.

Well that would be all I think. Good luck with map-making! :-)


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Re: Some tips to making better maps

Postby alias on Wed Oct 10, 2012 6:36 pm

Func detail has such a low cost ratio that it realy doesnt matter to use them. Ladders have far more issues and therefor are less recomended. And TF2 cant use ladders at all.
About 1: You can disable shadows on windows. Often is more efficient as in that case you arent using a dynamic object. A func_illusionary even if invisible is still allways rendered. However, its cost is close to a func_detail. But using many of those can couse ingame crashes where a func_detail can only crash the compiler.

About 2:
Its realy not a problem to use area portals. Especialy when its a map like office where rooms are clearly defined and often contain a large enough area. Area portals are also very usefull in large rooms. In fact, they can do things hints NEVER can reach. By using an area portal that portal will clip anything that falls outside of it. A room with many props will therefor only render when close meaning that the rest on your screen wont be rendered.

About the func_detail vs props.
  • A ladder is often a prop. A prop often has more polygons and therefor has a higher cost. However, in videoram they only take up space once so on repeated use are again cheaper. But the diffirence is very little
  • Func details can have a limit (even though very high). The same counts for props but its far less often.
  • Things like ladders often have a higher cost at rendering shadows.
  • Ladders harm a player in mobility. They can only go up in a straigh line at a slow speed. A ladder allows sidestepping and provides the max speed
  • Props can have lod levels giving them a higher quality to view though.
So it realy depends on what you want. Manualy making a ladder is however the least efficient as you get the downside of 2 things. As ladders are generaly props you get a higher quality view when climbing one. A stair is allways a little bit away from you and needs less detail because of that. Stairs however are prefered by player because they provide a better gameplay and arent a bottleneck.

About 3:
The fade distances are only for performance reasons. And its normaly only the end distance that matters as you already expected. However, in many cases you want to fade the objects in the distance or otherwise they suddenly pop into view. That is why fading is better. And depending on the map this can be welcome or isnt needed. Also, if you arent making the dynamic object dynamic ALLWAYS use a static prop. Dynamic props take in more memory and when overused can crash the server (similar to illusionary objects).

And to add:
The engine has a limit of 2048 dynamic objects. illusionaries, dynamic props, func brush and the players all count in this. And depending on the game there can be much more dynamic objects.
In counter strike source you can count about 10 per player which already is high meaning you lose 640 at most generaly (3 weapons, a few grenades, armor and some of the dynamic spam from shooting - note, decals have a seperate pool and are automaticly removed at its limit)
In day of defeat you have a limit of only 32 player meaning you halve the spent pool already.
In tf2 you can have 20 objects per player with ease. In fact, demoman and engineers are most expensive in those (grenades, stickies, building props all count in those). For that matter tf2 has a recommended limit of 1460 dynamics (all valve maps dont go over this limit but only touch it). A crash coused by those mentions "too many edicts".

Its more recommended to use spot lights than the normal lights. Spot lights are generaly giving more realistic light effects. Even on a normal light bulb using a normal light for its direct light effect on the ceiling above and a spot light to lit up the floor below works best. In tf2 this even is a must because the normal lights dont light up a player well enough (due to how players are rendered). Note that spotlights need a much higher brightness to work.

Also, displacements. They can be used allmost everywhere. Even indoor to get that uneven floor feeling. Obviously, make sure that they also have a nodraw behind it for FPS reasons.
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